Requirements for Psychology majors

September 24, 2016

Undergraduate & Graduate

Psychologists study the human mind and behavior to help patients overcome emotional or psychological difficulties. Becoming a psychologist requires obtaining a master's or doctoral degree. During this process, students may perform research, work supervised clinical rotations and teach classes. They may work in a variety of specialties, such as counseling, school or clinical psychology. Besides working with individuals, psychologists may work with large companies and organizations to improve workplace productivity or employee satisfaction. They may also conduct research, publish papers and give speeches.

Required Education Master's or Doctoral Degree
Other Requirements Licensure needed for many positions; optional specialty certifications available
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 12%*
Median Salary (2012) $69, 280*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Educational Requirements for Psychologists

Individuals can work in the psychology field with different degree levels, but those who wish to practice independently need advanced schooling. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that in every state psychologists need a master's or doctoral degree to become licensed or certified, which is a requirement to work as a psychologist (

At the doctoral level, students may choose from a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) program, depending on personal interests. They may consider Ph.D. and Psy.D. programs accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA), which accredits programs and internships for clinical, counseling and school psychology. Some state-licensing committees require applicants to hold a degree from an APA-accredited program (

Undergraduate Level

A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement for work in the psychology field, and competition is keen for jobs at this level. The BLS says that individuals who hold a bachelor's degree can apply for a limited number of jobs with the federal government or work as assistants to psychologists. An undergraduate psychology degree can also prepare students for graduate programs. A bachelor's degree program in psychology includes such course topics as research methods and decision-making and core requirements in areas like developmental, social and clinical psychology.

Master's Degree in Psychology

Individuals with master's degrees in psychology may qualify to work as industrial-organizational psychologists, according to the BLS. Some states may approve candidates with master's degrees for licensure as school psychologists. Master's programs are offered in general psychology and in concentration areas. These programs include advanced courses in research, statistics and psychological methods, often requiring the completion of a thesis or comprehensive exam as the capstone requirement.

Doctorate in Psychology

Most states require people who run their own practice to have a Ph.D. or Psy.D. Prospective psychologists interested in research may consider Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology programs, while Doctor of Psychology programs are best suited for the practice of psychology. Individuals may begin these programs after earning a master's degree or enter directly after undergraduate studies. Students who have already completed a master's program may count some of the credits toward the completion of their doctorate.

Doctoral candidates must complete research, residency or comprehensive exams, since requirements vary by program. Students often work as teaching or research assistants in exchange for a stipend. The BLS indicates that some Psy.D. programs may be based on practical work experience instead of a dissertation. School, clinical and counseling psychology programs could involve an extra year of supervised work experience in addition to doctoral programs' five years of full-time study.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The BLS expected psychologists to see an overall employment growth of 12% between 2012 and 2022. However, those specializing in industrial-organizational psychology could experience a much faster job growth of 53%, while clinical, counseling and school psychologists, as well as those working in all other fields, were expected to see an 11% increase in employment opportunities.

As of May 2013, the BLS reported that the nation's roughly 1, 040 industrial-organizational psychologists earned a median annual salary of $80, 330. There were around 104, 480 clinical, counseling and school psychologists working during this period. They earned a median annual salary of $67, 760. Psychologists specializing in all other areas earned a median annual salary of $91, 140. There were nearly 11, 000 of these professionals employed in the 2013 reporting year.

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